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Brain Tumor Warning Signs for Adults and Children

written by: DaniellaNicole • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 1/25/2010

While these brain tumor warning signs can indicate other medical issues, if experienced, they should be checked by a physician. Whether it’s a primary brain tumor, a metastatic brain tumor, a tumor in an adult or in a child, the following are warning signs that are common to all of them.

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    Introduction

    Whether it’s a primary brain tumor, a metastatic brain tumor, a tumor in an adult or in a child, there are some warning signs that are the same for all of them. These brain tumor warning signs can indicate other medical issues, but if experienced, should be checked by a physician.

    Because children may not be able to adequately communicate what they are experiencing, it is up to caretakers and parents to be alert to signs of problems. Parents and caretakers should also ensure children get regular medical checkups in order to catch any problems that may arise early. It should be noted that brain tumors in children one year of age and younger are rare.

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    Warning Signs of Brain Tumor

    Though the list is not exhaustive, these are the most common warning signs of brain tumor.

    • Headaches
    • Dizziness
    • Seizures
    • Drowsiness
    • Speech problems
    • Vision problems
    • Hearing loss
    • Confusion, memory loss
    • Decreased coordination, loss of balance
    • Muscle weakness
    • Nausea, vomiting
    • Mood swings
    • Personality or behavior changes
    • Breathing difficulty
    • Swallowing problems
    • Hand tremors
    • Hiccups
    • Sense of smell problems
    • Sense of taste problems

    Additionally, infants may display the following signs:

    • Increased head circumference
    • Bulging fontanelle (This means an infant’s soft spot is curving outward)
    • Opisthotonos (The infant is holding an abnormal posture of the body, usually with severe back arching)
    • Separated sutures (This means there are abnormally wide spaces in bony joints of the skull)
    • Red reflex lacking in eye (This is the color reflection seen when an eye is examined using a retinoscope or ophthalmoscope)
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    Examinations and Testing

    When a patient presents these warning signs, the doctor may order any number of tests to discover the cause of the problem. Some of the tests that are most common are CT Scan, MRI, x-ray, EEG, biopsy, spinal tap (lumbar puncture) and cerebral angiography.

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    Summary

    These brain tumor warning signs can also indicate other problems, but if these signs are accompanied by a persistent headache, speech impairment, vision changes or different or new seizures, medical attention should be sought immediately.

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    References

    Brain Tumor – primary – adults. U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. Last updated October 14, 2009 by Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007222.htm

    Metastatic brain tumor. U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. Last updated June 10, 2008 by James R. Mason, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000769.htm

    Brain Tumor Symptoms. Cancer Treatment Centers of America. http://www.cancercenter.com/brain-tumor-symptoms.htm

    Brain Tumor – children. U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. Last updated June 10, 2008 by James R. Mason, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000768.htm

    Recognizing the Symptoms: Warning Signs of Brain Tumors. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. http://www.stjude.org/stjude/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=9c85fa3186e70110VgnVCM1000001e0215acRCRD

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